Evidence of meeting #131 for Indigenous and Northern Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was million.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Yves Robillard  Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, Lib.
Alex Lakroni  Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Paul Thoppil  Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
Sony Perron  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

4:15 p.m.

Yves Robillard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, Lib.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Madam Minister, I want to thank you for your excellent testimony, but especially for the very high quality of the translation of your speaking notes. They are written in impeccable French.

A key element of your mandate is to accelerate the unique approach to self-determination for First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. You have spoken in the past about the work under way across the country at recognition of rights and self-determination tables.

Could you let us know what progress has been made at these tables and explain why you believe this new approach is essential for accelerating the self-determination of indigenous peoples?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

Thank you. It's a good question.

The topic of self-determination is close to my heart. There are 70 tables for 320 First Nations. There are also the Métis of Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. These tables are absolutely unique. Each of them determines its priorities. The well-being of children and youth is a priority for one-third of the tables. There are also fisheries and education. In any case, we are still on the road to self-determination. I think this is a historic moment for First Nations communities. It is an opportunity to rebuild their nations, languages, governments, laws and legal practices. I am very optimistic about this.

4:20 p.m.

Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, Lib.

Yves Robillard

Okay.

Funding for the Métis federation of Manitoba seems to be focused mainly on strengthening capacities, including closing the gaps and strengthening governance.

Why is this so important? In your opinion, what concrete examples of self-determination would result from these investments?

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

These investments are intended to strengthen governance. They will give them the capacity to make their own laws. It is very important that programs exist to allow them to continue to focus on housing and on other services. Beyond that, these investments will really be used to establish their governance and their governments.

4:20 p.m.

Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, Lib.

Yves Robillard

Thank you.

The 2018 budget provides $101.5 million over five years to support capacity building for indigenous peoples. This funding is also available to support activities that will help them forge their own path and rebuild their nations. Investing in this capacity building is essential to accelerate self-determination.

Could you give us an update on this promised funding?

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

This is very important. In the past, funding for measures to achieve self-determination came in the form of loans. Now, we are talking about investments in the discussion tables. I think it's a better approach than loans, which can be a barrier.

4:20 p.m.

Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, Lib.

Yves Robillard

Thank you.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

We are moving on. We've run out of time.

I'm sorry.

We're moving on to the last round because we started a bit late. The questioning now moves to MP Kevin Waugh.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I want to thank you again for coming, Minister, along with Deputy Minister Watson and Alex Lakroni.

Welcome.

You may recall that about a year ago, on November 30, my question to start out that day was, and I quote:

Two departments, more staff, more money.... Give me an indication of how many more staff we have now, how much more money. Can you just give us a quick update? Obviously, you've split into two now, so that means you're hiring more. How much does that cost?

If you don't mind, a year ago, on November 30, 2017, you said:

One of the corrections I will make is that we are not splitting a department in two. We are dissolving a department, because all the great people who worked in our department had one burden on them: they worked for INAC. INAC is no longer to exist. We will build two new departments, bottom up, form following function, as we said, based on the needs.

Here we are today, and on the notice of meeting I see four, not two. How does this work? How much, really, is it costing Canadian taxpayers? A year ago, on November 30, you said two, and here we have four: Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Indian Affairs and Northern Development now, Minister of Indigenous Services, and now Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, with Mr. LeBlanc as the new lead.

Please, Minister, fill us in.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

At the moment, and from budget 2018, there has been no increase in what we've been carrying out.

I will say that we will need more money going forward because the appetite of our partners is so great that we have to be able to keep up with the pace, particularly in terms of getting on the path to self-determination. For us to be able to meet as regularly as people need, and to have the people to do this.... Eventually, they will be self-governing. As you know from what the Prime Minister said a year ago in August, the Department of Indigenous Services will no longer be necessary because those programs and services will be delivered by nations or by indigenous-led institutions.

As we're in this transition period at the moment, there is no increase, but I would be remiss not to say that I hope there will be increased resources so that we can do what it says in my mandate letter—accelerate the path to self-determination—and not be disappointing nations that want to get on that path.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

We were disappointed, and so was the Parliamentary Budget Officer this past summer, as they asked the two departments, which were unable to provide details as requested by their office, about their planned spending for infrastructure.

Are these details now available? We didn't get them in the summer when you were asked by the PBO.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

Yes, I understand that they are available now.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Could you share them with us?

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett Liberal Toronto—St. Paul's, ON

Yes.

I think that at that particular time, there were certain aspects of the infrastructure that were under tender, and it would have been inappropriate to release the details of those tenders until they were secured, in order for us to be able to make those decisions in good faith.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

How much did the departments plan to spend on indigenous and northern communities as part of phase 1 of the investing in Canada plan? Did you exceed that? What was the number we were looking at, and what have you spent so far?

It's kind of a three-part thing. What did you think you were going to spend in this investing in Canada plan? How much have you actually spent, and are you over?

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

You have only a few seconds.

4:25 p.m.

Alex Lakroni Chief Finances, Results and Delivery Officer, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

The infrastructure for CIRNAC, including the north, has three components, with housing, in three regions. The budget for 2016-17 was $35 million. For 2017-18, it was $45 million, and for this fiscal year, 2018-19, it is $40 million, which is included in the supplementary estimates.

In addition to that, there is a component on clean growth and climate change. We have the details for that. I am more than happy to share them with you.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Waugh Conservative Saskatoon—Grasswood, SK

Okay. Thank you.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you.

We want to thank the minister and her team. Meegwetch.

We'll see you next time. Au revoir.

This meeting is now suspended. We're going to switch over.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Welcome, Minister. We're happy to have you here.

The committee is hearing from you on the estimates, and we have some questions for you as well. I know the MPs are anxious to get started.

Please go ahead whenever you're ready.

November 28th, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.

Markham—Stouffville Ontario

Liberal

Jane Philpott LiberalMinister of Indigenous Services

Thank you, Madam Chair, for the welcome and the opportunity to be with you today.

I want to acknowledge that we are gathering for this meeting on the unceded traditional territory of the Algonquin people.

It is a pleasure to meet again with the members of this committee. I would like to start by thanking you for the important work you are doing.

I appreciated your report on wildfires and fire safety on reserve, and I look forward to the results of your study on long-term care on reserve.

Last week, as you know, the Minister of Finance reminded us in his fall economic statement that the Government of Canada is committed to growing the middle class, which means creating an environment for indigenous peoples to access the opportunities that will enable them to be part of the thriving middle class.

It's no secret that those who have faced some of the most severe economic disadvantages in this country for a very long time are indigenous peoples. I want to assure committee members that we are hard at work to change this reality for indigenous peoples in Canada. We have made good progress in our work to close the socio-economic gaps for indigenous peoples.

I will be happy to answer any questions about that progress today.

Today I will be outlining my department's supplementary estimates A, funding which is crucial to address the broad socio-economic gaps between indigenous and non-indigenous people in Canada.

As you know, in January 2018, we identified five interconnected priority areas where Indigenous Services Canada plays an important role. These are child and family services, education, health outcomes, infrastructure and economic prosperity.

Although the appropriations in budget 2018 are reflected in the main estimates of the Treasury Board Secretariat, I would like to take a moment to outline some of the ways this funding is supporting these priorities.

We must address the humanitarian crisis of far too many indigenous children being taken into care. Budget 2018 provides more than $1.4 billion in new funding over six years for first nations child and family services. We are currently working with indigenous partners as well as provinces and territories to reform child and family services, with a focus on prevention and with the idea of keeping children safe and families together. This includes exploring the co-development of options for federal child and family services legislation and supporting the exercise of jurisdiction over child and family services by indigenous communities.

We must also address the unacceptable health outcome gaps in first nations and Inuit communities across the country. To close these gaps, budget 2018 announced more than $1.5 billion over five years, starting this fiscal year, and $149 million per year, ongoing, for health programs. This funding will help, among other things, Inuit-specific approaches to prevent suicide and eradicate tuberculosis. It will also provide resources to address the opioid crisis in first nations communities.

In terms of first nations education, we know the graduation rates don't match those of non-indigenous Canadians, and we've made progress on a co-developed education policy reform that puts the emphasis on self-determination in education. We have also built and renovated schools and increased funding for post-secondary programs.

Another area of priority is addressing the infrastructure need. Both budget 2017 and budget 2018 are providing $1.5 billion in funding towards distinctions-based housing strategies: a co-developed first nations housing strategy; an Inuit-led housing strategy for the Inuit regions of Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and lnuvialuit; and a Métis Nation housing strategy.

As well, Budget 2018 provides $172.6 million over three years for clean drinking water on reserve. To date, we are on track to lift all long-term drinking water advisories by March 2021. We have now lifted 75, with 66 to go. This information and all updates on changes to drinking water advisories are available on our website.

I want to spend a few minutes on our fifth priority, that of economic prosperity. The Government of Canada is committed to building a new fiscal relationship with first nations communities, one that will result in sufficient, predictable and sustained funding. This relationship will be built on co-created solutions that support self-determination and accountability of first nations governments to their citizens.

To that end, the Government of Canada agrees with first nations who have told us that the First Nations Financial Transparency Act needs to be replaced with a respectful approach to the accountability relationship between Canada and first nations. That is why we are moving forward with first nations partners on the co-development of a mutual accountability framework, which was a recommendation from the new fiscal relationship report that was produced with the Assembly of First Nations and published in December 2017.

My department and the AFN recently established a joint committee on fiscal relations, which will provide advice on this important co-development work. The recommendations from the committee will be shared starting in spring 2019.

Let me now turn to the supplementary estimates (A).

Indigenous Services Canada requires immediate funds to continue delivering on our mandate of closing socio-economic gaps and advancing self-determination.

These estimates reflect a net increase of $1.23 billion, which brings the total appropriations for 2018-19 for my department to $10.9 billion. The largest portion of this increase, $1.18 billion, is in vote 10, grants and contributions, primarily for water and other infrastructure, and for Jordan's principle. I will touch on three of these initiatives.

Funding of $423 million would be provided for the first nations water and wastewater enhanced program and to monitor and test on-reserve drinking water. This funding is critical to build on our priority work in this area. Projects like the water treatment plant upgrades and repairs, and the training of operators through the circuit rider training program are supported by this funding.

Jordan's principle ensures that all first nations children have access to the health, social, and education products, supports, and services they need, when they need them. Funding of $323 million will support care delivery under Jordan's principle. Since its inception, the reach of Jordan's principle has expanded to apply equally to all first nations children living on or off reserve. From July 2016 to September 2018, more than 165,000 requests for supports and services were approved under Jordan's principle.

To assist with the infrastructure crisis in first nations communities, we are requesting $287 million in funding through these estimates. The funding would address critical infrastructure needs, including housing, and help communities plan in accordance with the construction cycle. With this funding, communities would be able to explore innovative and new approaches to meeting their housing and infrastructure needs.

These supplementary estimates (A), should they be approved by this committee, would make a direct difference in people's lives, in a manner that advances reconciliation.

I thank you for this opportunity, and I am pleased to take your questions.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal MaryAnn Mihychuk

Thank you very much.

We'll start off with MP Mike Bossio.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you so much, Minister. It's always a treat to have you come to our committee. We do get to see you quite often, so we appreciate that.

What a phenomenal record you've had so far in this role. Your ability to get things done is really commendable.

Minister, I know you attended a meeting last week with youth from the Nishnawbe Aski Nation. I think you would agree that there is an amazing generation of young indigenous leadership that is emerging in Canada. In my own Mohawk territory, I'm so impressed. Every time I go to the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, I note that more and more youth are becoming more and more engaged at all levels, in all issues. Despite facing some challenging circumstances, these young people have proven themselves to be resilient and innovative.

Could you update the committee on how Choose Life has impacted the lives of youth in remote communities in northern Ontario? More broadly, could you speak to the impact that Jordan's principle, which you were just talking about, has had on first nations youth across the country?

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jane Philpott Liberal Markham—Stouffville, ON

Thank you very much for the question and for your generous words.

I would point out that any success we have managed to achieve has been a collective effort, working across government, across all parties and across first nations, Inuit and Métis leadership in this country. We're thankful that we're starting to see some really great progress.

The meeting last week with the youth from Nishnawbe Aski Nation was an extraordinary one. They were all so inspiring and enthusiastic, and bright and articulate. They met with the Prime Minister, which of course they were delighted to be able to do, but they talked specifically about some of the things you mentioned.

One of them, which I really would be happy to share, is this program called “Choose Life”. One of the great things about Choose Life is that it was actually designed by the youth of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation for the youth of NAN. It was a reaction to the very high rates of suicide. They said they know what their youth need to build hope and resilience, and could they plan a program that they believe will actually make a difference in young people's lives? They placed requests for funding through Jordan's principle, which we were able to support.

It has taken off in an incredible way. Now 47 of the 49 nations are using this. It's a program that has been incredibly successful in building hope. It includes a range of approaches, including spending time with elders, learning about traditional ways, learning about the history of their peoples and building that cultural resilience. There are also opportunities for outdoor education, where they go out on the land, on the rivers, and they learn about hunting and fishing. It really builds up what Minister Bennett always likes to call “a secure personal cultural identity”, which is so valuable to people actually being able to have that strong self-esteem.

The youth themselves said it is making a difference and it is saving lives, and they pleaded with the Prime Minister that they be able to continue this program.

I could go on at some length about some of the other great things that Jordan's principle is doing. For example, in Manitoba, where the chair is from, an entirely different program has been designed, called “My Child, My Heart”—again, led by first nations for first nations, totally changing the lives and prospects of these young people.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

I'm not surprised. When our committee was studying the youth suicide crisis a couple of years ago, we were in Sioux Lookout, and once again, it was absolutely remarkable how resilient the youth were, how creative they were, and as you said, innovative as well.

I understand that Choose Life is a program designed specifically to support the youth living in NAN communities. Can you elaborate on how this program has influenced the experience of first nations youth in northern Ontario? How might we expand upon it to better support them?